Beads of sweat perched on my forehead threatened to trickle down my cheeks as I waited for her entrance. Music swelled to crescendo as the doors opened. Every person in the room rose in anticipation. She walked gracefully down the aisle escorted by her father. Nerves swirling in my stomach fled at the sight of her and I was overcome with joy. She was gorgeous in her wedding dress and I looked moderately handsome despite a funny looking haircut and a tuxedo coat with tails. The ceremony was traditional and, in the grand scheme of weddings, memorable probably only to ourselves and our mothers. A personal touch was added when I interrupted the brief service, a complete surprise to Teri, and performed a song I had written. The song, which hasn’t been sung since, was terribly cheesy but sincere. There are moments when sincerity carries more weight than quality.
Our wedding was laced with traditional symbolism and fancy terminology. A church sanctuary filled with family and friends watched as we vowed to love and cherish, have and hold despite whatever the future holds, regardless of whether or not that future includes poverty or wealth, sickness or health. These are fine words and we shared them with sincerity, but I doubt either of us truly grasped the meaning. At the invincible age twenty-one vowing to love each other through times of sickness equated to making a bowl of soup and tucking the other into bed when we had the sniffles.
On the surface vows are merely words written on a piece of paper then spoken and carried on the breath until they dissipate into the air. The factual record of our exchange of vows is embedded on the black ribbon of a VHS tape, tucked into a box to be watched at some point in the future when our children become curious about our wedding day.
Just below the surface it is discovered that vows are poetry. An interplay of lyrics shared between two unique individuals whose lives converged and are convinced that the uncertain future is meaningless unless it is shared with the other.
Dig deeper still and it is revealed that vows rise from the rumblings of the soul as the audible expression of hope.
Our vows have never been tested like they have been this past year, our thirteenth, when I was diagnosed with stage-four melanoma. I spent two weeks in the hospital and even before I was released Teri was leading the fight to keep me alive. She snuck fresh vegetable juice into my room so I wouldn’t have to compound my suffering with cafeteria food. Upon my arrival home she launched into caring for me with complete abandon. Untold hours were spent researching nutritional therapies, she filled my diet with nutritious vegetables that are healing my body, she shed buckets of tears praying and lost hours of sleep by my side. Nursing a recovering cancer patient is not part of her God-given skill set but she has relentlessly persevered. For the past nine months she has spent an enormous amount of time hunkered over the kitchen counter preparing salads, juicing vegetables and embracing a vegan diet.
All of the cancer therapies we employ share this aim: to overdose the body on nutrition. One of the most efficient ways to accomplish this is to drink lots of freshly made vegetable juice. Vegetables reduced to liquid contain far a greater concentration of nutrients than a person is able physically able to eat in a single sitting. The juice skips the digestion process and nutrients enter the bloodstream as quickly as alcohol and begin the work of replenishing nutritional deficiencies in the body. Having taken in the right fuel, the immune system begins to function correctly which is then able heal the body of disease. One of the foundational cancer healing juice recipes involves carrots. I don’t claim to understand all of the science, but there the carrot juice attacks the cancer cells, breaking down the outer cell wall so that the immune system can then go in an destroy what is left.
Carrots don’t juice themselves. Teri wakes early each morning to start the process of juicing more than five pounds of carrots (and other vegetables) each morning. In nine months of daily grinding between fifty to sixty ounces of juices I’ve not heard a single complaint. Not one.
When the vows kick in, you don’t even blink. You just do.
Today is our fourteenth anniversary and my wife is still gorgeous and I still have a goofy haircut. Our vows kick in each morning and I am only able to write these words because she saves my life every single day. Were we standing on a stage in a sanctuary in front of family and friends today I wonder what our vows would sound like. Perhaps something like this:
Teri, Repeat after me:
I, Teri, take you Bruce,
To be my lawfully wedded husband.
I will do everything in my power to keep you alive,
When everything else is in this world is trying to kill you.
I will grind more carrot juice than water in the Mississppi
I will pack your lunches full of healing food,
Because even under the shadow of cancer,
Life spent with you is still better than any other alternative.
Bruce, repeat after me:
I, Bruce, take you Teri
To be my lawfully wedded wife
Knowing full well
You have been, and will forever be
Way out of my league.
I love you and your carrot juice.